SC summons finance secretary, AGP over non-provision of election funds

Due to the government’s failure to distribute Rs21 billion in funds for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday issued notices to the finance secretary, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Jameel Ahmad, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan, and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Officials have been instructed by the highest court to appear in the judges’ chamber on April 14.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) ordered the government to provide the ECP with Rs21 billion in funds to conduct elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by April 10 and directed the ECP to report to the court on April 11 on whether or not the government complied with the order in its April 4 verdict, which was issued by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar.

In a report that was submitted yesterday, the ECP informed the court of the government’s reluctance to issue the necessary amount for elections.

In the meantime, the issue has been referred to Parliament for consideration.

In a notification gave by the SC recorder today, the zenith court noticed that the report presented by the ECP yesterday expressed “no assets have at all been delivered and given to it as expected by the request for the court”.

It stated, “Prima facie disobedience is the federal government’s failure to comply with the order of the court as aforesaid.” The outcomes that can move from such at first sight rebellion of the court are all around settled and known.

The notice mentioned that “everyone who embarks upon, encourages, or instigates disobedience or defiance of the court can be held liable and accountable.”

It featured that the “defiance” by the central government would put the direct of opportune decisions as ordered by the Constitution in “peril”.

According to the Supreme Court, “the question of the provision of funds for such a vital constitutional purpose is something that requires immediate attention and takes priority over proceeding against those who may have committed contempt of the court.”

The court then sent notice to the SBP governor and the next highest bank official, telling them to show up in the judges’ chamber on Friday, April 14, at 11 a.m. It guided them to bring the record and subtleties of cash possessed by the national government lying with or under the influence, care or the executives of the national bank.

The AGP, the finance secretary, and the “next most senior official” in the Finance Ministry were also given notices by the court to appear in person on the same day. The aforementioned officials are required to bring every relevant record with them and provide the court with a comprehensive explanation of the reasons behind the order made in Paragraph 5 of the Constitution. P. 5/2023 has not been followed, as expressed by the commission,” it said.

The court instructed the ECP secretary and director general law to prepare and submit the complete record pertaining to the general elections to the Punjab and KP assemblies by issuing notices similar to these to them.

ECP report Although the details of the report that the ECP presented to the court yesterday are unknown, a source who is familiar with the situation told Dawn that the one-page report informed the Supreme Court of the government’s reluctance to issue the Rs21 billion required for the purpose.

In addition, the report stated that the election watchdog had been informed by the Punjab caretaker government that the government could only approve 75,000 security personnel against the demand for 300,000 security forces due to resource constraints.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court ordered the Punjab caretaker cabinet, specifically the chief secretary and the police chief, to provide an acceptable plan for providing sufficient personnel for election duty and security purposes in its verdict.

According to the ruling, in the event that the Punjab government and its officials fail to fulfill their constitutional and legal obligations, they are required to proactively provide the commission with all assistance necessary for the holding and operation of the general election.

Government’s reluctance to distribute funds The federal government’s reluctance to distribute funds is being interpreted as an apparent attempt to postpone elections until at least October, as evidenced by the bill’s presentation in parliament.

Ishaq Dar, Finance Minister, presented a bill in the National Assembly and Senate earlier this week to request funds for the conduct of elections in Punjab and KP.

The bill, titled “Charged Sum for General Election (Provincial Assemblies of Punjab & Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Bill 2023,” stated that funds required for conducting elections in both provinces must be “an expenditure charged upon the Federal Consolidated Fund (FCF),” which includes all federal government revenues, loans, and money received for loan repayment.

When it came into effect, the bill stated that it would “override other laws” and be in effect “notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, rules, or regulations.”

In addition, it noted that the general elections and polls to the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies do not need to be held for the proposed law to be repealed once elections for both assemblies are held.

Then again, various goals have been passed by legislators looking for synchronous decisions rather than split surveys after the disintegration of KP and Punjab congregations, as conceived by the top court in its new judgment.

On Monday, the Senate approved a resolution supporting joint elections, and on the same day, the KP caretaker cabinet supported nationwide general elections.

Additionally, the Balochistan Assembly’s resolution cited the ongoing economic crisis.

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